The devotion portion of our blog is written as a way to keep people in the Scriptures. As a church we know that the Bible was inspired by God, and is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The blog devotion is designed to give people at least one experience in the Scriptures on a weekly basis. The blog will generally cover a chapter of the Bible each week. We encourage you to read that chapter, then read through the blog which will give explanation and application from the text. Reading the Bible is an important spiritual discipline and an important part of the journey for the Christ-follower. While we encourage you to be in the Scriptures daily, this blog is a way to take it deeper at least once a week. For the next several months the blog will go through the Old Testament book of Judges.
When God is so good, why do we struggle so much to obey and serve Him? Judges is an intriguing book in the Bible, because in the pages of this book you we will meet some wacked out people, but we will find ourselves.
God had been so good to His people. They had left Egypt with Moses, and were given the 10 Commandments on Mt. Sinai. Even though they failed Him in the desert, resulting in 40 years of wandering, God was faithful. Under the leadership of Joshua, the Israelites conquered and moved into the land God had promised them (remember the battle of Jericho and the walls falling down?). Everything along the way was a miracle, and God had kept their promises. Every tribe and family got a place to live in this wonderful new land.
But they were not completely obedient to God. You see, God had ordered that they drive the people living in the land completely out. God’s desire was for His people to be holy and separate. He realized that if there were people who worshiped idols and other gods living right next to God’s people, they would be tempted to serve the other gods. So God wanted His people to drive the other people out of the land. But God’s people only followed His direction half-way. They took the land over and defeated all the other nations in the land. But instead of driving these people out, the Israelites allowed them to keep some of their cities and live down the road.
This is a classic example of how you cannot obey God half-way. For the rest of their history, the Israelites will be in conflict with these neighbors and will be tempted by these people. In fact, to this day, the descendants of these people cause problems for the Jews in Israel. When you hear about the Palestinian, realize that they are descendants of the people that lived in the Promised Land when Joshua and God’s people moved in.
The book of Judges tells the story of God’s people after Joshua’s generation died. The Old Testament book of Joshua is the story of God’s faithfulness. Judges is the tragic sequel and tells us that God’s people are faithless. Still, in spite of them, God remains true to His promises and continually disciplines His people and then redeems them. The people had possessed the land, and had found their homes. But the people around them began to tempt them with idolatry. The same people they were supposed to drive from the land began driving the Jews from their God. The book of Judges is a book that tells the story of a cycle that happened over and over again. You need to memorize this cycle and look for examples as you read the book.
STEP 1 – God’s blessing – God would bless His people.
STEP 2 – Complacency and idolatry – The people would forget that it was God who had blessed them and they would begin to worship idols and other gods.
STEP 3 – Defeat – God would raise up the people in the land against the Jews, and the Jews would be defeated and humiliated as an act of divine discipline.
STEP 4 – A cry from God’s people – The Jews would cry out to God to bail them out.
STEP 5 – A judge – God would raise up a person who would rule and serve a military leader who would defeat the nations around Israel and return Israel to God’s blessing. Then the cycle would start again.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN JUDGES
*The Judges – The word judge in this book is not the same thing as a judge here in America. The book does not deal with people who sit in a court and make decisions in trials. A judge in this book is a leader that God raises up to deliver His people. Some of the wildest characters in the Bible are found in this book. These judges are used by God, sometimes in spite of their character flaws. The issue is not how good or bad the judge is. The issue is that God is being faithful to His people, and delivering His people from oppression.
*The cycle – Blessing, disobedience, repentance, deliverance. . . In all honesty, they are not really a whole lot different from us. God’s people have always turned to Him when they were oppressed, and become complacent when life was easy. God’s church has never flourished in a society where it was easy to be a Christian. This would explain why the only place where Christianity is not growing is in America and Europe, the two places where freedom has provided safety from any real persecution for believers.
*The key verse – The last verse in the book, Judges 21:25 is the key to the entire book. “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Although God had blessed them and kept His promise, God’s people were self-centered, self-serving, and did only as they wanted. This same verse can be applied to our culture. We live in a country that has forgotten her religious roots, and everyone does what is right in his own eyes.
HOW TO READ AND APPLY JUDGES
First of all, learn the stories of these great Bible characters. Learn how God used Deborah (one of the great women of the Bible). Pay attention to Gideon’s army. Look at how the great man Sampson failed, but then repented. Many times we can learn principles about life and obedience to God by learning the stories of the Bible.
Second, examine yourself in relation to the cycle in judges. Are you in a time of blessing or oppression? Are you trusting God or doing what is right in your own eyes? The book of Judges is a challenge to obey and trust God completely, or He will allow us to suffer the consequences of our sin.
Third, pay attention to how God works through people to accomplish His purpose. Some of the judges were people of good character, some were doubters, and some were of questionable character. But the bottom line is that God had something to accomplish, and he used all kinds of people. God can use you. No matter how bad you have failed, if you trust Him and serve Him, God can use you to do great things.
Fourth, pay attention to how God deals with the sin of His people. God deals seriously with the sin, idolatry, and rebellion of His people. When His people choose to serve other gods and rebel against the true God, they suffered greatly because of their choice. When they repented, God would respond and deliver them. God still deals with sin in a serious way. You may not have someone show up at your house and conquer you. But the results of sin are still devastating. You will lose joy, and peace, and contentment, and purpose in life. You can suffer grave results due to sin. And worst, God will remove His presence from you. As a Christian, He will not leave you so you would be lost again. But you will not recognize His presence. Sin is still serious business, and repentance is still a wonderful return to the God who loves you.
Finally, Judges is a book of deliverance. When the Hebrews get themselves in situations which they cannot solve, the only hope is that God will step in and do for them what they cannot do for themselves. These small stories of God’s deliverance are pictures of God’s grace and redemption in micro, which is also the story of the entire Bible. God’s people do not deserve His deliverance and redemption, but God acts and provides victory from the most unlikely of sources. This all points us to Jesus. We too are enslaved, hopeless, and unable to fix our oppression. But God sent deliverance from the most unlikely of sources, a Galilean peasant who died on a Roman cross. So Judges is ultimately a picture of God’s grace and the great narrative of redemption we find in the Bible.
Hope you enjoy studying Judges with me!